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Blair Witch Blu-ray Review

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While the original Blair Witch Project [1999] changed the low-fi indie horror scene forever, my lasting memory was of something utterly unique, despite the sickness felt from the hand-held/found-footage wobbly camera work. It has also remained something special despite an average, somewhat messy, follow-up and so it’s more than acceptable to expect another story to tell from that original, fictional nightmare.

We return because of James (James Allen McCune) and his desire to hunt out in those woods for any trace of his missing sister, Heather, from the 1999 film. This connection makes it all slightly more plausible to delve into such a world of primal fear and this time they have the added bonus of all the modern technology instead of just a standard camcorder.

Directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett, who worked together on V/H/S, You’re Next and The Guest, it states early on that the film was ‘put together from footage found in 2014’. The group this time appear to have as little knowledge as the first kids that went out there except they’ve got all the equipment from a decently budgeted High School media department, which includes Bluetooth-type earpiece cameras, drones and handheld cameras.

Suspending disbelief, I do question why they’re armed to the teeth with such an array of tech for no reason beyond wanting to film their big day out, the movie starts calmly enough and because of what Wingard and Barrett achieve over the hour and a half run-time, I think the added gadgets bring newcomers in and invites them to explore the myth and mystery for themselves.  Also, over time the drone footage, and more steady cameras, really help progress the narrative because it gives the audience a chance to breathe and settle into the picture, especially if you’ve got any issues with the shaky side of affairs.

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After an initial trek, and a character cutting their foot in a river crossing, they settle down for the first night with ghost stories around the camp fire. There’s little thought towards ‘will they have a quiet first evening?’ because, of course, they won’t and I actually prefer being thrown into it as soon as possible, there’s no need to give us one quiet night for the sake of it, we’re here for the thrills. So as the loud noises, a disappearing chap named Lane (Wes Robinson) and ‘I’ll be right back’ searches off into the darkness, you know we’re not far away from it all really beginning.

Beyond screaming and looking shit-scared, it’s hard to judge individual performances but as deep intensity is required, they all nail that element impressively. Saying that , I thought Callie Hernandez stood out because her level of terror is pushed beyond others and the intensity she creates within her own situation is ultimately compelling, especially as the  pressure builds and the myth appears to be become a reality.

Do they go back to that house? What do you think? It’s a cult legend now in the genre and so it’s a welcome return and these scenes in the latter third are the ones that really light up this return to the Blair Witch. The scenes here explode with excitement and fear because it’s all very much batshit crazy, that much is accurate. So if you enjoy being scared psychologically and aren’t effected too much by motion sickness, Blair Witch is nicely done and heck, you might even pick up some handy camping tips, if you ever go near to any woods ever again.

3/5

Blair Witch is available on Digital on 16 January, and on Blu-ray (Pre-order here) and DVD on 23 January.

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